In previous posts we explored the need for honesty in quieting the mind and in understanding our mental contents. These are, however, just two facets of what can be accomplished in contemplative practice. Another facet is understanding others.
During contemplative practice ours minds frequently turn to others and their relationships with us. Our minds review, interpret, and judge our interactions with others often seeing their words or behavior as reflecting something about us. This person doesn’t like me or is angry with me. That person is rude or is not listening to me. This other person is trying to manipulate me or get something from me. Our interactions with someone else from the distant past could have been different if we had acted differently, etc.
In our contemplative practice we have an opportunity to explore these thoughts and we can learn from them if we are scrupulously honest with ourselves. We should ask ourselves simply do we know these things for sure. What is the evidence we’re using and does it unambiguously prove that our conclusions are true. Most of the time we’ll find out that we’re leaping to conclusions that are not so much tied to facts as to our interpretations and judgments about those facts.
If we pursue this it will begin to dawn on us that perhaps the other person actually likes us or is not at all angry with us, or is not ignoring or manipulating us but acting out of their own issues. We can see that no matter how much we try we cannot change the past, it’s gone, and will never be repeated. An honest look at the evidence can help us to see that our interpretations reflect more our internal issues than the actual feelings or beliefs of others.
It takes honesty with ourselves but we can come to understand that others are not upsetting us, we’re upsetting ourselves, others are not hurting us we’re hurting ourselves, others can’t manipulate us unless we let them, and events in the past can’t effect us if we let them go. We are the ones in control, not others.
This can be a revolutionary insight. Once we realize that we’re in control then we understand that we can be the masters of our emotions and lives. We can then take charge.
Let’s be honest and look at our responses to others deeply and clearly.